Article Title

Jurisdiction—Federal Common Law under 1331(a): Illinois v. City of Milwaukee, 406 U.S. 91 (1972)


The United States Supreme Court recently announced yet another basis for federal jurisdiction over actions against polluters. Justice Douglas, writing for a unanimous Court in Illinois v. City of Milwaukee, broadly stated that "when we deal with air or water in their ambient or interstate aspects, there is a federal common law." In the jurisdictional sense, the Court held that the federal common law of pollution is a "law" of the United States within the meaning of the general "federal question" jurisdiction statute, section 1331(a) of the Judicial Code. Thus, the United States district courts have jurisdiction over actions arising under federal common law when the requirements of section 1331(a) are met. This casenote discusses the Court's holding that there is a federal common law of pollution and that the federal district courts have subject matter jurisdiction over suits arising under that common law by virtue of section 1331(a).

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